In a significant development, Bangladeshi citizens are on the verge of acquiring distinctive national ID numbers, thanks to the recent approval of a ground-breaking law by the Cabinet. This law marks a pivotal shift in registration responsibility, transitioning it from the Election Commission to the Ministry of Home Affairs. During a meeting on Monday, June 12, 2023, the Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, granted final approval to the ‘National Identity Registration Act 2023’, solidifying the path for this transformative initiative.
Every citizen to receive unique ID
According to Cabinet Secretary Md Mahbub Hossain, each citizen will be assigned a new and distinct ID number, which will serve as their official identification. The ultimate aim is to ensure that every citizen possesses a unique number, he added during a press briefing after the meeting. The registration process for obtaining the ID number will be open to citizens from the moment of their birth. The government will provide the necessary machinery and software for this purpose, and registration offices will be established by the registrar for the convenience of the citizens.
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Once the National ID registration process is in the hands of the Security Services branch of the Ministry of Home Affairs, citizens will receive their numbers along with their birth certificates. These ID numbers will be permanent and cannot be changed. After the Ministry of Home Affairs takes over the registration process, the Election Commission will focus on compiling the voter list.
Existing ID holders will retain their current NID numbers, confirmed the cabinet secretary. On the other hand, individuals who do not possess NID numbers will be assigned new ones. Once they receive their unique ID number, they will not require any other identification numbers.
Children to get certificate immediately after birth
Cabinet Secretary Mahbub Hossain explained that a registrar office would be established within the Security Services Division to handle the national identity registration services, headed by a registrar. In response to a question, the cabinet secretary mentioned that, under the new law, new-borns would receive a unique identity number shortly after birth, which would later serve as their NID card number. While currently only citizens aged 18 or above can register for NID, the new law would allow citizens of any age to register.
On October 10, 2022, the Cabinet gave preliminary approval to the draft proposal to transfer the national identity registration process from the Election Commission to the Security Services Division of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The cabinet secretary informed reporters that all information pertaining to NID registration will be transferred to the new registrar office.
The objective of this initiative, according to Mahbub Hossain, is to alleviate people’s difficulties, with the government aiming to consolidate all individual information under a unique identity number.
During the meeting, two acts were also approved for the establishment of public universities in Shariatpur and Thakurgaon districts. The proposed name for the university in Shariatpur was initially ‘Sheikh Hasina Agriculture University,’ but the cabinet decided to change it to ‘Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agriculture University.’ The other university will be named Thakurgaon University. Additionally, the Cabinet approved the draft law for the creation of ‘Sylhet Unnayan Kartripakkha’ and the drafts of the Bangladesh Institute of Management Act, Bangladesh Economic Zone (second amendment) Act, and National Disabled Development Foundation Act.
Why the responsibility is passing?
Last year, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal disclosed plans for the transfer of the National Identity Card (NID) program to the Ministry of Home Affairs. This disclosure was made in response to a query posed by Gano Forum lawmaker Mokabbir Khan from Sylhet-2 during a question-answer session in the Jatiya Sangsad, with Speaker Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury presiding.
The minister explained that the NID program typically falls under the purview of the executive department in various countries worldwide, and Bangladesh is no exception. Consequently, steps are being taken to shift the program under the safety service division of the home ministry.
As for the Election Commission (EC), the minister clarified that their involvement is limited to registering individuals as voters. He further highlighted that the government initiated a project in 2007, led by the Bangladesh Army, to create a comprehensive voter list. The NID program emerged as a by-product of this project, initially as a temporary measure.
Minister Kamal emphasised that the importance of the NID has significantly grown, with its applications expanding manifold. He stated that given its multifaceted utility, the program needs to be shifted from the EC to better align with its purpose. According to the Electoral Roll Act of 2009, every eligible citizen of Bangladesh who is qualified to be a voter is also eligible to obtain an NID.